Sunday, August 29, 2010
A Completely Different Ball Game
Like many football fans I’ve had a flutter on the football. I once backed Sheffield Wednesday to win the title, I put a tenner on at 66/1 but I lost my money. I was once five minutes away from winning several hundred quid but Gary Mabbut decided to score his own goal in extra time and not injury time thereby invalidating my bet which was based on 90 minutes.
But these odd flutters have been just that. Odd flutters. They have never been the raison d’etre of following football. Just a harmless activity along with eating cheese n onion crisps and a few cold beers at Trips in Waterloo Station.
South east Asia of course is famous for its obsession with gambling. The hardcore here would mock my feeble efforts as they rushed to back Manchester United or Chelsea to win. By their standards I am lower than a neophyte.
Last night I was talking with a Singaporean gambler about football and it was like two different conversations were going on. Which in fact is what was happening. I was talking football as a game, a spectacle. He was talking odds. To him it wouldn’t matter if he was betting on snails in a marathon or raindrops on a window pane. As long as he won he didn’t give a shit.
He, like I guess many others, has an interest in football because he believes, wrongly, that it offers him the best chance of a return. So he will back the big teams week in, week out safe in the knowledge that they will, usually win. Because them’s the stats.
Muggings old me though I made the mistake of trying to tell him that anything can happen in 90 minutes and that all sequences will come to an end but he was having none of it. He would reel off stat after stat leaving me feeling totally bewildered.
In his robotic mind there was no room for emotion or passion. He had reduced football to one or two ball advantages, sequences and total goals scored. He didn’t get what I was saying and I sure as hell didn’t get what he was saying. Instinct he kept telling me was his best friend.
Before I went out last night he asked me for a tip. I said Arsenal to beat Blackburn, draw half time. Pah, he said condescendingly, he would never back Arsenal. He went on to say Arsenal would never win anything with kids under Arsene Wenger. They had won nothing for five years, by his logic they would never win again and he could see no way of them ending the famine.
I returned a little later a little worse for wear and asked him how much he had won. He hadn’t of course placed the bet.
All conversations with this guy leave me with a feeling of helplessness and bewilderment. I don’t get his mindset, he sure as hell don’t get mine and so it goes on. I will bump into him on my next trip no doubt and we will, no doubt, have the same roundabout conversations which will leave both of us scratching our heads.